Highly unusually, a North Korean dictator and a global human rights body may find themselves on the same page regarding the corruption that is endemic across the deeply isolated and impoverished nation.
On Tuesday, the UN Humans Rights Office released a 43-page report, “The price is rights: The violation of the right to an adequate standard of living in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
The report details how a failure of the North Korean state has led to the citizenry struggling to provide for their basic needs by engaging in market activities – in the face of extraordinary levels of corruption.
“The rights to food, health, shelter, work, freedom of movement and liberty are universal and inalienable, but in North Korea they depend primarily on the ability of individuals to bribe state officials,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, in a press release that accompanied the report.
Ironically, corruption and abuse of power are issues railed against by none other than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un himself. Kim, who seeks to assert control over his decrepit state and secure revenues, called for a “war on corruption” during his New Year’s Day speech, and subsequently purged 50-70 members of the wealthy elite.
The current dire state of affairs inside North Korea has had a long gestation period.
Survival markets survive and thrive
Following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and years of bad harvests aggravated by wrong-footed agricultural policies, a destitute North Korea was stalked by murderous famines in the mid-1990s that killed hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, in a period known to North Koreans today as “The Arduous March.”